Israel has hit targets with the F-35, Israel Air Force Commander Maj.-Gen. Amikam Norkin said today, making Israel the first country to use the jet in combat.
Israel says it has carried out scores of strikes in Syria against suspected Iranian emplacements or arms transfers to Hezbollah guerrillas in neighbouring Lebanon.
Local media further quoted Major-General Amikam Norkin as saying in a speech to the chiefs of 20 foreign air forces convening in Israel:
“We are flying the F-35 all over the Middle East and have already attacked twice on two different fronts.”
According to a contract notice, Lockheed Martin was awarded $14m for ‘the procurement of initial air vehicle spares to include endurance spares packages to coincide with F-35 air vehicle deliveries in support of the government of Israel’.
The notice read:
“Work will be performed in Fort Worth, Texas (24.4 percent); El Segundo, California (9.1 percent); Owego, New York (8.6 percent); Samlesbury, United Kingdom (7.2 percent); Cheltenham, United Kingdom (6.2 percent); Nashua, New Hampshire (5.8 percent); Torrance, California (5.5 percent); Orlando, Florida (4.9 percent); Cedar Rapids, Iowa (3.7 percent); San Diego, California (3.6 percent); Phoenix, Arizona (3.1 percent); Melbourne, Florida (3.1 percent); Irvine, California (2.5 percent); N. Amityville, New York (2.4 percent); Windsor Locks, Connecticut (2.2 percent); Baltimore, Maryland (2.2 percent); Papendrect, Netherlands (1.9 percent); Rolling Meadows, Illinois (1.8 percent); and Alpharetta, Georgia (1.8 percent), and is expected to be completed in December 2021.”
Israel is currently building the infrastructure needed to accommodate F-35s, including hardened aircraft shelters, underground pens, and maintenance facilities. In addition, the IAF has ordered 30 M-346 trainer jets to train F-35 pilots.
Construction of a manufacturing facility to produce wings under license for the F-35 was completed by mid-2014. The site is to produce a total of 811 wing pairs. Initial orders for the F-35 will be for 20 planes, with a total of 75 intended.
The first customised F-35I test platform is expected to be delivered to Israel by 2020. Former Israel Air Force chief Maj.-Gen Amir Eshel has called the F-35 “game changing” saying that Israel gathered new intelligence during a single flight by the F-35 early 2017 that other reconnaissance and intelligence gathering systems would take weeks to gather.
The IAF declared the first batch of F-35s operational in December 2017.